Showing posts with label assassination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label assassination. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

War is over. (If you want it.)

"The battle is always lost within the castle."

Well, John Lennon got that one right. We elected Donald Trump president -- or at least voters in states comprising a majority in the Electoral College elected Donald Trump -- and what seems to be a nearly inevitable war with Iran already is lost.

It didn't -- doesn't -- have to be fought. The fuse was lit when Trump pulled the United States out of the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran, then ramped up sanctions in an attempt to destroy the Iranian economy.

After a year or so of tit-for-tatting with the mullahs, Trump poured jet fuel on the burning fuse by ordering the (nominally) peacetime, extralegal assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, said to be the second-most powerful member of the Iranian government. The Iranians will strike back -- hard.

When they do, Trump, who has blown up any plausible deniability that he is a madman, has threatened to respond by committing war crimes on an epic scale -- airstrikes against 52 Iranian targets including civilian sites and cultural treasures.

THE IRANIAN regime is not innocent in this, and Suleimani had much blood on his hands, including American blood. Then again, so does North Korea's Kim Jong Un. Trump considers him a friend . . . at least for the time being.

Tomorrow, who the hell knows?

No, Iran is not innocent. But after years of neocon warmongering, Trump's diplomatic duplicity, foreign-policy recklessness and -- now -- an illegal assassination of a foreign official that pretty clearly was an act of war, the United States stands before a global jury guilty as charged.

We are a deeply wrong country set to embark on a clearly illegal and unjust war.

And we are guilty of putting the madman who's about to pull the trigger in just the position to do it. With impunity.

As we say during the Roman Catholic Mass, "Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

But . . . perhaps if getting into this catastrophic mess is our fault, maybe we also can get out of it. Somehow, like we eventually did in Vietnam. 

"War is over. (If you want it.)"

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


Bobby Kennedy died 50 years ago. It still hurts.

Actually, the assassinations of 1968 -- first Martin Luther King and then, two months later, Robert Kennedy -- hurt all the more as time goes by. Why is that? Why are these the wounds that never heal?

Some say it's because what we lost in that terrible spring of '68 was hope itself. Maybe some did -- I can't say for sure; I was just 7 at the time. But I remember the sadness, and I remember some of the fear. Still, 7-year-olds don't lose hope . . . not really. It takes longer for a body to really and truly lose hope.

I wasn't there yet.

Now, a half century on? I still don't know. My hope is battered and bruised -- besieged, actually, in this hateful and diseased Age of Trump -- but it's not lost. Not entirely, anyway.

But every insult to it -- every body blow, every instance when the unthinkable becomes not only thinkable, but reality -- adds, for me, to the grief over something that happened when I was but a child.

THE PAIN grows exponentially as Americans see what we've become, as we grow ever more acutely aware of what we lost that awful early Wednesday morning as gunshots rang out in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. As hope drained away along with the life of the senator from New York over the next 26 hours.

You know what I think about? I think about how different we might have turned out had we gotten a president who endeavored to heal a divided America, sought to end a deeply stupid and wasteful war, and reminded us that The Other was our brother.

I wonder what the story of the last half century would have read like without Richard Nixon's race-baiting "Southern strategy," the fulfillment of which sits today in a soiled Oval Office . . . and in every act of racial or ethnic hatred across this still-divided land . . . and on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria . . . and in the detention facilities filled with Mexican and Central American children torn away from their undocumented parents somewhere along our southern border.

I wonder about that. And then I grieve -- still -- over a murder from when I was just out of first grade in Baton Rouge.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A speech ungiven in a language unlearned

Here's some of the beginning and then the conclusion of the speech John F. Kennedy never lived long enough to give at the Dallas Trade Mart that horrible day in November 1963.

It was written in a language little understood and, sadly, no longer spoken in the United States:
This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason -- or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land -- voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will "talk sense to the American people." But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.

It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income and output -- by surging ahead of most of Western Europe in the rate of business expansion and the margin of corporate profits, by maintaining a more stable level of prices than almost any of our overseas competitors, and by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by some $11 billion, as I have proposed, to assure this Nation of the longest and strongest expansion in our peacetime economic history.

This Nation's total output -which 3 years ago was at the $500 billion mark -- will soon pass $600 billion, for a record rise of over $100 billion in 3 years. For the first time in history we have 70 million men and women at work. For the first time in history average factory earnings have exceeded $100 a week. For the first time in history corporation profits after taxes -- which have risen 43 percent in less than 3 years -- have an annual level of $27.4 billion.

My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

The strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions -- it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations -- it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain."

5 Decades & the Truth

A funny thing happened on the way to this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

About half past noon this afternoon, I turned on the CBS News web stream of its coverage from Nov. 22, 1963 -- that day. Uncut, real time, starting at the moment of the first bulletin that shots had been fired at the president's motorcade in Dallas.

Within an hour -- live on TV -- America was forever changed. Over the next three days, television news grew up, making up how to cover the unthinkable, live and non-stop . . . as it covered the unthinkable, live and non-stop.

It did so, by today's technical standards, primitively and without formatic bells or whistles. Television also did so powerfully and occasionally artistically -- and without a surfeit of hairspray.

OF COURSE, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a powerful blow to a country -- to a people. The death of our young president and the images of his grief-stricken widow -- as well as television's reflection of our own grief -- hardly could fail to affect. Powerfully.

Let me put it this way. When President Kennedy fell victim to Lee Harvey Oswald's deadly aim, I was four months shy of my third birthday. I have memories of that day.

The sense of overwhelming sadness and loss endure after five decades. It comes storming out of the mists of time, as raw and fresh as yesterday. And it wasn't just the loss of what was; it was the loss of what might have been.
Too, maybe it was the loss of what might not have been. We are a greatly changed people from what we were Nov. 21, 1963. In some ways, that is a good thing. In more ways, I fear, that has been a bad thing.

We are a more cynical people since that day.

Great tragedy, should you survive it, can make you stronger. The aphorism to that effect did not come from nowhere.

Great tragedy, however, is just as likely to break you, too. That is a proven fact. Fifty years ago, I think, we were broken -- at least partly. I am 52, and I have lived my life watching the wheels come off a society. Not uniformly, but enough.

I've unfortunately done my part to make that so, Lord knows.

THAT'S WHAT is washing over my mind and through my soul as I find myself unable to pull myself away from CBS-TV, circa 1963. When Walter Cronkite once again -- through the time machine of videotape -- read the flash from Dallas confirming the death of the 35th president of the United States, I reflexively crossed myself.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In retrospect, that's not a bad reaction, even half a century hence. In that spirit, this sad anniversary isn't the time for jazz, rock 'n' roll or even blues in the night. That's what happened today on the way to the Big Show -- there won't be one. It just didn't feel right.

Stay tuned for a few days for a pre-Thanksgiving edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

God bless us, every one.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Hail to the conquering hero

For a brief moment, one woman lifts Capitol Hill from the muck, and humanity reasserts itself. Now I'm going to have to go and read twice as many political comment threads to regain equilibrium.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happiness is a pissing match over a warm gun

Expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon
the people’s Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant,” she added. “The irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the TEA Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger.” “
Especially within hours Limbaugh railed against the left’s
attempts to “massage” the shooting “for their political benefit,” saying Democrats were just waiting for an excuse to “regulate out of business their political opponents. . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody in the Obama administration or some FCC bureaucrat or some Democrat congressman has it already written up, such legislation, sitting in a desk drawer somewhere just waiting for the right event for a clampdown. . . . They have been trying this ever since the Oklahoma City bombing.” And David Brock, CEO of the liberal watchdog Media Matters, wrote an open letter to Rupert Murdoch calling on him to fire or rein in Beck and Palin for their use of violent rhetoric on Fox News. “Beck and Palin are two of Fox’s most recognizable figures,” Brock wrote. “Before this heartbreaking tragedy in Arizona, you were either unwilling or unable to rein in their violent rhetoric. But now, in the wake of the killings, your network must take a stand.” “I’m not playing politics,” Beck said on his radio show Tuesday. He said he had “softened” his rhetoric over the past two years. “Nobody wants to recognize this. Why? Because it hurts their dialogue.” "There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t
designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government." While it would be impossible to top the self-centered offensiveness of today's Sarah Palin video -- where she used the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords to peddle her message of victimhood -- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) gave it his best shot, but could only manage a trifecta of stupidity. of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.” Should we have expected anything else? Four days after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that left six dead and fourteen wounded, and on the day that Congress and the President will honor the victims of this tragedy, Sarah Palin just happens to choose today to assure America that she is among the victims. In a carefully orchestrated video, complete with a large American flag that apparently flutters next to her fireplace, Palin quickly gets her sympathy for the victims and their families out of the way so she can get to the real reason for her message -- to attack the debate that has arisen about the role violent rhetoric so commonly used among elected Republicans, their media surrogates, and of course Palin herself, may have played in last Saturday's tragedy. A California man was arrested on Wednesday morning for threatening to kill Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington State, as the shootings in Tucson sparked impassioned conversation about Congressional security on Capitol Hill. Charles Habermann, 32, of Palm Springs, Calif., was arrested for phone calls he made in December to Mr. McDermott’s office in which he threatened to kill Mr. McDermott, as well as the congressman’ss friends and family, and to put the congressman “in the trash.”

"What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other."
-- President Obama

Nice thought. Too late.

Monday, January 10, 2011

We can only imagine

Surveying the west Omaha landscape on a snowy Sunday night, one could contemplate the quiet, feel the biting January chill and mistake the world for one at peace.

One might imagine his fellow Americans -- all of them -- gazing at the powdery comforter pulled over a manicured suburban scene, grateful for the beauty of it all.

One might get lost in the nature-imposed tranquility of such a night and imagine that an anger-crazed teenager hadn't, just a few days ago, shot and killed his assistant principal.

Hadn't shot and wounded his principal.

Hadn't shot at and missed a custodian as he fled the scene of the crime -- a high school just miles away from this peaceful sight.

Lost in a gentle snowfall, engulfed in the soft glow of a leaden January sky, one's thoughts have difficulty embracing the notion of an anger so intense, so soul-deadening, so hope-destroying it would demand that a young man jam a Glock up against his own head, then pull the trigger in a bid for oneness with the abyss.

TAKING IN this wintry vista, one struggles with the vision of a paranoiac snapping an ammo clip into another handgun, in another American city far away, then taking aim at a congresswoman, then pulling the trigger, authorities say. Pulling it again, and again, and again, we hear -- like some sort of self-appointed destroyer of entire worlds.

Appearances can deceive. We are tempted to think the falling snow might somehow forever bury -- mystically obliterate -- the blight upon our land. That the ugliness within us might not survive the beauty without.

Eventually, though, the snow clouds exhaust themselves. Eventually, the light shines upon the illusion and melts it away.

Eventually, we must deal -- Might deal?
Can we deal? -- with the muck and the grime.


Maybe we'll just close our eyes, trying not to notice the stink of that which molders around us. And we'll wait for the next snowfall . . . for the next blessed illusion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meanwhile, on Dallas TV

WFAA television in Dallas. Nov. 22, 1963.

A day in November in 1963

It's a big day in Dallas-Fort Worth this late November day in 1963. The president, vice president and first lady are in town.

WBAP radio is providing complete coverage of the presidential visit. An exciting day in the history of any city, to be sure!

North Texans will long remember this Nov. 22, I'll bet.

Friday, May 29, 2009

When evil meets ignorance

For a killer time, call 723-1400.

That's the way it is in little Warren, Pa., where someone following in the spiritual footsteps of John Wilkes Booth, Charles J. Guiteau, Leon Frank Czolgosz and Lee Harvey Oswald can connect with someone following in the intellectual footsteps of Forrest Gump. Who'd a thunk it?

Probably lots of people . . . but that's not important now.

OBVIOUSLY, 723-1400 is the number for Idiots 'R' Us -- and we all know what great fun the devil can have with a useful idiot. Like getting them to place a personal ad calling for the president's assassination.

Personal ad? You mean 723-1400 is the number for the local. . . .

Yep, the local newspaper. In Warren, I guess The Times Observer is where the village idiot lives, according to
this ABC News report.
A classified ad which ran yesterday in a Pennsylvania newspaper -– which appears to call for the assassination for President Obama -– was pulled today.

The ad, which ran in the classified section of The Warren Times Observer, connects Mr. Obama, the first African-American president, with four previous presidents who have been assassinated and reads, “May Obama follow in the steps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!"


Today, the newspaper issued an apology, calling it an “errant classified personal ad.”

“The ad representative didn't make the connection among the four other presidents mentioned and mistakenly allowed the ad to run,” the newspaper’s statement says. “The Times Observer apologizes for the oversight.”
THAT'S A COSTLY "disconnect." Technically, the northwest Pennsylvania newspaper -- depending upon whether the ad is judged to be a legitimate threat against the president -- could be an accessory to a felony.

Threatening "to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect"
is a violation of the U.S. criminal code.

It's a good thing the
paper's publisher came clean to the Keystone Progress blog . . . after calling the cops. Turn in a wingnut; save your own butt.

Keystone Progress called the Times-Observer for comment and got a return call from John T. Elchert, the paper’s publisher. Mr. Elchert was extremely apologetic and wanted to make it clear that the ad did not reflect the paper’s policy.

“It is unfortunate that it made it to press,” said Elchert. “The person who took the ad didn’t recognize the significance of the names. We cancelled the ad and turned the information over to the authorities.”

Mr. Elchert said that he contacted the local police who were forwarding the information to federal authorities.
THERE'S SOMETHING ELSE Elchert needs to do, though.

Let's assume it's true that "the person who took the ad" really didn't grasp what the thing was getting at. It's disturbing, but probable, that someone could be so mind-numbingly dumb and still get a job somewhere.

And that's what the publisher needs to rectify. Any employee who's ignorant enough to get you in this much trouble (and get you this much bad publicity) shouldn't have been hired in the first place.

Elchert can't undo the damage resulting from what happened on both ends of 723-1400. But he sure as hell can undo the original mistake -- the one who inputted the ad instead of calling the authorities.